Liberia: MoE's Omission of Civics Education From Education Review Is One Lapse Too Far!

The Daily Observer salutes authorities at the Ministry of Education as well as stakeholders and partners as they commence the 2019 Joint Education Sector Review in Ganta, Nimba County. According to Education authorities, the exercise is part of the Ministry's Reform Initiative and it is being held under the theme "Restoring the Education Sector for Quality Outcomes through Collective Efforts and Innovation".

A laundry list of thematic areas for discussion includes amongst others: Financing education; Revised curriculum; Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Education; Teacher Education; Tertiary Education; Governance and management; Monitoring and Evaluation; Early Childhood Education; Basic and Secondary Education; Vocational, Technical and Inclusive Education

The Daily Observer, however, observes with concern the absence of civics education from the list of thematic areas to be discussed during this Joint Education Sector Review (JESR) currently ongoing in Ganta, Nimba County. Perhaps civic education is subsumed in a larger thematic area such as governance and management. Should this not be the case, then Education authorities need to provide explanations why this is not the case.

This newspaper has raised this matter before in its editorials expressing concern about the sad fact that citizen education or civics which should be part of learning activities in the classroom where our students will learn about the duties, rights and responsibilities of citizenship, is virtually absent.

In a few months a referendum will be held on a number of proposed changes to the Constitution. Dual citizenship is one of those issues which will feature on the list of proposed changes to the Constitution. Yet, most eligible voters have scanty or no knowledge at all about dual citizenship and what it means or entails.

Also, very few Liberians have knowledge of the Constitution. This is largely because it is not taught in schools and whatever civic voter education the National Elections Commission claims to provide is at best ineffectual.

The Daily Observer expressing its concern over the recent spate of student protests, some of which have been attended by violence resulting in the destruction of public and private property, can be attributed in part to the absence of civics from the school curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education.

The Daily Observer in its attempt to provide information to the public on this matter has made several unsuccessful attempts to contact the Education Ministry to provide some information on the reintroduction of the teaching of civics in Liberian schools as announced by the Ministry earlier this year. Phone calls and text messages to Ministers Duopu and Doe-Sumah have since gone unanswered

Now, the year is just about ended and, in keeping with practice, the Ministry is conducting its year-end Joint Education Sector Review and there is no indication that the state of civics or civic education in schools is among the thematic areas currently being discussed and reviewed.

Education officials need to provide explanations to the public on why civics/civic education is not included in the topics for discussion. After all, it was the Ministry of Education that made a public announcement to reintroduce the teaching of civics in Liberian schools this year. The year has ended and nothing has been done and there is no fitting explanation which the Ministry of Education can provide for such an anomalous situation.

Education authorities ought to realize that they owe it to the public to come out and explain why the teaching of civics has not been reintroduced as announced earlier this year. The public needs to know what is happening. Is it the lack of support from central government or the lack of donor support that is hampering the reintroduction of civics to the national curriculum?

This newspaper finds it difficult to believe that this government will not support such a program; similarly, it finds it difficult to believe that donors, especially UN agencies will withhold support for such a worthwhile project. Whatever the case, the Ministry of Education needs to come clean and let the public know just where it is on this matter.

If the project is stuck in the pipeline due to the lack of donor support, Education authorities should keep the public informed so it can contribute to the search for alternative sources of support. If, however, Education authorities have "eaten" the money allocated for the civic education project the public also has the right to know. Indeed, the omission of civics education from the ongoing joint review is one lapse too far.

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